Once a Contented Agnostic

Oursler, Fulton, 1893-1952


  • Fulton Oursler explains why faith and love are the two most important prinicples in his life and how to practice them.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Frequently, a man starts life at one job, winds up with another. A native of Baltimore, now a New Yorker, Fulton Oursler began as a journalist, turned author in interpreting the Bible. That changed figures importantly in his faith.
I believe in the power of faith and in the power of love. As I see it, all the achievements of man flow from these two great rivers of strength.
I'm often asked how faith took command of my life. Well, it's a simple story. For years, I had lived as a contented agnostic. Then on a tour of Palestine, I was suddenly overwhelmed by two thoughts. First, I saw that we could never make the world safe for democracy unless and until we had a citizenship of high integrity and character worthy of the freedoms of democracy. Second, that Jesus Christ was at once the teacher and the exemplar of the life of integrity.
I decided then to write a life of Christ in popular language to reach the masses. I studied hundreds, perhaps a thousand books. All my studies brought me nearer to the master, and soon my heart was on fire with faith. And now the flame is brighter every day.
The various dictionary definitions of faith confuse me, but I have always known, instinctively perhaps, what faith means to me--not a credo, but a blessed assurance; neither belief nor hope, but knowledge. When I was a child, I knew that Father and Mother were good and kind. I did not have to believe that they were good and kind. My faith in them was complete because of my experience with them everyday.
So it is with my faith in God. The assurance is complete, and for me there is no doubt because of daily experience. The logician will demand to have the matter proved with evidence of the laboratory and slide rule. But I'm content with St. Paul's definition of faith: "The substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Still, how can I know what I have not seen?
There was a man in the Bible who wanted to believe, who almost believed, but was beset by reservations, and he made an honest prayer: "Oh Lord, I believe. Help thou mine unbelief." Theologians tell me faith is a gift. I think it is a gift that can be asked for, as this earnest, old biblical character asked for it, and it can be worked for.
As for love, it is for me the open door to faith, the only approach to truth. The practice of love brings me the awakening knowledge and conviction of faith. How do I practice love? Oh it is so easy for one to give money or write a check against people's misery. But love is not giving money. It's giving myself. I must minister with my own hands, reach out and give some personal help to someone--not just occasionally but everyday. And I must go out of my way to do it not in the mood of a Lord Bountiful but with tenderness.
Such love begins with a person who is nearest me at this moment. It knows no end anywhere. All living responds to tenderness. The
potency of love and faith has transformed my life. In them lies my only true security. Embracing them, I confront the universe unafraid. I know then it is a good universe and friendly. I know this even when disaster overtakes me and sorrow overwhelms me, and I feel I have deserved neither sorrow nor disaster.
Nevertheless, because my faith in God is a sure knowledge, I trust Him even in anguish, even without understanding. So I am strengthened even by misfortune. My sympathy deepens, all of my forces quicken, and I become--or try to become--an even more ardent servant in the good cause, the value and meaning of my life raised to a new level of effectiveness.
We have just heard the creed of Fulton Oursler, a well-known author, who in the face of the complexities of modern life, holds a humble belief.